Posts Tagged ‘Corruption’

It Just Keeps Getting Worse

Tuesday, March 16th, 2010

With every passing week, it becomes ever clearer that Governor Richardson, and everyone in his administration,  will find themselves tainted come Election Day by the pay-to-play political scandals of the last eight years:

Douglas Goldberg, a former vice president of CDR Financial Products, admitted in federal court in Manhattan on Monday that he was involved nationally in bid rigging of investment agreements and other contracts involving municipal bonds from 1998 to at least November 2006. He is cooperating with authorities.
        

Goldberg was involved in getting CDR hired in 2004 to work on the $1.6 billion state bond program in New Mexico known as Governor Richardson’s Investment Partnership.
        

The company won a contract as an adviser on exotic financing arrangements that were not described in the request for proposals issued by the New Mexico Finance Authority.
        

It later received a no-bid, sole-source deal to manage the escrow account for the bond proceeds from the authority, which was charged with handling the GRIP financing for the Rail Runner and other New Mexico transportation projects.

The voting public is not going to be able to drive a road or see the RailRunner without being reminded that someone bought the opportunity to win those projects from this administration.  Now, some of you may think that Governor Richardson is termed out, so this is all just water under the bridge.  But, this is clearly not the case.

Take for example the current scandal plaguing the Secretary of State’s office. We might all remember that not all that long ago Insurance Superintendent Eric Serna was chased from office for the shakedown of those doing business with his office:

Former New Mexico Insurance Superintendent, Eric Serna, got forced to resign after years of allegedly shaking down those that came under his authority:
Serna indicated to Madison that he favored “good corporate citizens” making contributions to legitimate charitable organizations. Ruiz said Serna sometimes “looked the other way” on fines when insurance companies agreed to make contributions to favored charities. Ruiz said Serna would choose Con Alma and $35,000 would be sufficient.

At first glance, some might argue that he is just trying to help out some needy charities. Of course we later learned that Serna used at least one of those charities as his own personal slush fund.

A couple of years later, we see that absolutely nothing has changed. Our elected Democratic officials are still following the example set by the Richardson Administration:

A string of e-mails obtained by the SUN does support one of the allegations made in Salazar’s letter. Salazar states in one e-mail to [Secretary of State Mary] Herrera that he feared losing his law license because of activities in the Office.

“Ma’am, I not only have a duty to protect you, this office and the people of New Mexico, I also have my law license to protect,” Salazar wrote in a Feb. 12 e-mail to Herrera. “By law, this office is charged with responsibility for enforcing the Governmental Conduct Act. If we are asking our current contractors for this, then it is illegal.”

This e-mail refers to the Office’s attempt to ask private companies that contract with the Office for money to help fund a training event for county clerks to be held later this month.

What blows my mind is that you would think Secretary of State Mary Herrera would be particularly diligent in following the letter of the law considering her immediate predecessor is under indictment for her activities while heading up that office. But hey, this is the Land of Eternal Single Party Rule.  A magical place where elected officials can shakedown businesses and individuals with impunity.  Sure, they will occasionally have to throw one of their own to the scales of justice, but then they go back to their ways without ever worrying about Election Day ramifications… until now.

Election Day 2010 is looking to be the day the piper finally comes to get paid.  People have had just about enough and are ready to bring honesty back to elected offices. Granted, the favorite attorney of the pay-to-play crowd (e.g. Vigil and Correra) may see a downturn in business, but the rest of us will be far better off.  Heck, it looks like even Mr. Bregman might need a little time for a breather. His ability to outright deny the allegations of wrongdoing by his clients is becoming more and difficult:

But Bregman told the Journal that Salazar’s resignation had nothing to do with any of the concerns voiced in the letter.
        

“It had everything to do with the fact that he didn’t want to work,” Bregman said. “It’s clear he wasn’t a good fit for this office — as he said in the e-mail — and that’s because it required a lot of work.”

Even the casual reader can’t help but notice that in his attempt to deflect the blame, even Secretary of State Herrera’s attorney didn’t deny the allegations of the resignation letter, which if you haven’t read, I would strongly urge you to do so (hat tip: nmpolitics.net).

Weak Attempt at an Alibi

Tuesday, January 19th, 2010

We’ve all seen the movie plot line. It’s been in every mob movie made to date. The mob boss needs an alibi.  So, he makes a point of being seen somewhere other than the scene of the crime.  After all, if he was seen by hundreds at a party, how could he possibly be linked to the crime in question.  Sure, his hired guns were there, but hey, there’s no guilt by association, right?

The State Investment Council got together this week to hear what outside consultants found in their review of the agency. 

To no surprise, Gov. Bill Richardson, who chairs the council and controls it through his appointment of a majority of its members, didn’t attend the council meeting.
        

As I first reported last February, Richardson has rarely attended the meetings of the State Investment Council, which invests billions of dollars in state endowment funds.
        

Now, the governor is using his absence in an apparent bid to distance himself from the scandal that has rocked the council over the past several months.
        

“The reality is I left decisions to my state investment board,” Richardson told reporters Tuesday. “I hardly attended meetings. I felt that I shouldn’t be part of decisions.”

Now we know why the movie industry loves to come to New Mexico. We provide great inspiration for future plot lines.

Taxes Before Responsibility

Friday, November 20th, 2009

There’s a war brewing for the 2010 Legislative Session. The battle lines have been drawn, and on one side are those that believe government excess should be pared down, and on the other side are those that want to see the tax and spend party to continue by raising even more taxes. The spend, spend, spend people have formed the organization, Better Choices New Mexico, to make their case, which basically boils down to:

This alliance of small businesses, faith-based groups, working families, and nonprofit organizations believes cutting critical services and programs would be a terrible mistake. Instead, the Legislature needs to open the books on tax expenditures, close the loopholes for out-of-state corporations, and rollback the tax breaks for the wealthy.

What’s amazing to me is that essentially what they are defending is the spending gone wild policies that have left us in an economic crisis that should not have occurred. Any organization that wants to be taken seriously about seeing better choices in New Mexico had better address the severe mismanagement of taxpayer funds by the state before asking for more money. Their one-pager makes the case over and over again for increasing revenue, but not once does it talk about cutting expenses. The closest it comes is to suggest shifting dollars from one area of waste to another.

And, mind you there is a lot of waste in government spending in this state. There are the obvious signs of waste that are uncovered everyday:

Nemazee and others connected to Carret Asset Management gave campaign contributions to Gov. Bill Richardson before and after receiving the contract, according to the magazine. “The contract with the State Investment Council, which oversees $12 billion in trust funds from oil and gas leasing fees, has so far yielded $1.7 million in fees for Carret,” the author of the article, Nathan Vardi, reports.

Of course, no one wants to take responsibility for this kind of waste:

Richardson’s spokesman says the governor, who is chairman of the New Mexico State Investment Council, played no role whatsoever in the hiring of Carret.

Only in New Mexico could the Chairman get away with full denial of accountability. Then again, this is the same Governor who can hand out multi-million dollar favors like candy on Halloween
without the least bit of economic restraint, no matter how bad out budget situation may be:

I’m positively shocked that Governor Richardson has been a long time friend of the Hool brothers who are behind the Santa Fe Studios. The project, which I wrote about a few months ago, is being subsidized to the tune of $10 million by state taxpayers with taxpayers in Santa Fe County chipping in another $6 million. The whole thing stinks.

Of course, at the same time as he is pushing for additional subsidies for an already-subsidized industry, Richardson is pushing for tax hikes on the rest of us.

Then, there is the wasteful spending that is not so obvious unless you’re a government insider:


I am a state employee who is faced with trying to determine where to cut groceries, utilities, Christmas spending…I can accept the furlough…However, I looked at the salaries at executive agencies and must ask how did the agency on aging become a full Department? Military affairs? Where did some of these commissions come from? Do we need them or should we place higher expectations on persons employed in these areas? For example, why isn’t the Department of Homeland Security part of the Department of Public Safety?

Why not consolidate programs and eliminate some high salaried executives? Why are we paying outlandish rents for private buildings when there are vacant government buildings? I am not placing the blame on any branch of government, just venting.

Well, someone better start blaming a branch of government. It’s called accountability. But, then again, its easier to push for tax increases than to actually try to make a better choices in New Mexico. After all, it’s all about our children, right?

Three sport utility vehicles purchased for school administrators from an out-of-state dealer. A $91,000 tow truck. Thousands of dollars for iPods for students. Paying athletes and cheerleaders to pull weeds. Lunches, including a $110 tab at the Rio Chama Steakhouse paid for by federal funds intended for low-income students.

These are just some of the questionable expenditures uncovered by audits of five medium-sized school districts that were discussed Thursday at a meeting of the Legislative Finance Committee. One LFC staffer said these audits “barely scratch the surface” of waste and abuse in some school districts.

Yeah, it’s all about the children. Now, you tell me something. Do better choices start with putting more money in state coffers, or does it start by saying enough is enough? Until the people taking and spending our money are held accountable for their fiscal mismanagement, corruption and fraud, I say they don’t get to increase taxes by even one tenth of one percent.

Not Enough Screaming Insults

Friday, October 2nd, 2009


Must have been an unbelievably slow news day. The front page of today’s online Albuquerque Journal has an “article” which is basically a free ad for Lt. Governor Diane Denish’s request for contributions:


Lt. Gov. Diane Denish is asking New Mexicans to restore civility to state politics — by contributing money to her gubernatorial campaign.

In an e-mail sent out to supporters Wednesday, Denish, the sole Democrat to enter the 2010 race thus far, said many New Mexicans have told her they’re tired of the name-calling and negativity of current politics.

“Stand with me against the screaming and the insults,” said Denish, who added that a contribution of $25, $50 or $100 would help her “put her foot down and say ‘enough is enough!’”

Sorry folks this isn’t news. There are lots of candidates out there asking for money, and unless the Journal plans on giving each and every one of them equal time, I think they ought to revisit their editorial policy.

As to the content of the Journal’s in-kind contribution to Lt. Governor Diane Denish’s campaign efforts, I can’t help but wonder what exactly the Lt. Governor wants everyone to stop screaming about? Does she want New Mexicans to stop screaming about the fact that this administration’s tenure has been marked by more criminal indictments and pay to play scandals than any other administration in recent history? Maybe she wants New Mexicans to stop screaming about a public education system that is failing more and more children every year?

As a former Chairman of the Democratic Party, does the Lt Governor find it insulting that a member of her own party would point out that OVER A BILLION DOLLARS is spent without required audits. Or, could it be that Lt. Governor Denish finds it insulting that she is being held accountable for failing to blow the whistle as tens of millions of dollars in taxpayers funds disappeared because of highly questionable investment practices.

Sorry, but if you ask me, there’s not near enough screaming going on in the Land of Enchantment. In fact, I hope the “screaming” grows louder, and I’m really not going to lose any sleep if the crooks, or their enablers, are insulted.

Bode Aviation Video

Wednesday, September 23rd, 2009

The surveillance video of Bode Aviation’s negotiations with the City of Albuquerque [hat tip: Peter St. Cyr], and the role Mayor Martin Chavez plays “messing with” contracts is unnerving at the least. Watch the video, and then ask yourself, “How does this guy get elected term after term?”

http://vimeo.com/moogaloop.swf?clip_id=6696165&server=vimeo.com&show_title=1&show_byline=1&show_portrait=0&color=&fullscreen=1

Bode Surveillance- Short Version from Richard M. Romero on Vimeo.

Why isn’t this more front and center in the campaign? Oh right, publicly funded campaigns don’t allow the campaigns enough resources to get the truth out. Explain to me again how this has improved the process?

A New Kind of Double Dipping

Tuesday, September 22nd, 2009

Ever wonder why we have an economic crisis in New Mexico? Sure, it has to do with the spending spree of the Richardson Administration and the rubber-stamping legislature. But, the truth is that’s only one part of the equation. Corruption and unethical conduct are undoubtedly costing the taxpayers million annually as well.

I’m not just talking about pay to play politics that have seen tens of millions in taxpayer “investment” funds gp up in smoke. I’m thinking about the low level corruption that is costing us a half million here and half a million there.

For example, let’s just look at how much the taxpayers are paying for the PRC position held by Jerome Block, Jr. The part-time job pays $90,000 per year. In addition to that $90,000, the indicted Commissioner Block was able to grab $100,000 from taxpayers to fund his campaign:

Block Jr. told the Santa Fe New Mexican he won’t resign from his $90,000-a-year job representing northern New Mexico on the powerful regulatory board.

“I’m elected, I’m here, I’m not going anywhere,” he was quoted as saying before closing his office door to the reporter.

The New Mexican broke the story via Twitter earlier today.

The charges stem from Block Jr.’s publicly funded campaign for office last year. According to the Albuquerque Journal, Block, who is in his first term on the PRC, paid a band to play at a rally that never took place. Block later had to pay a fine and return $10,000 of the more than $100,000 in taxpayer money he received for his campaign after admitting to filing false reports.

So, right off the bat, we know that the indicted commissioner position costs $190,000. Of course, that’s only the start of it. You’ve got to factor in the time spent from those working for the Secretary of State’s and Attorney General’s offices:

A Complaint to the Secretary of State: On September 24, campaign finance advocacy group Common Cause issued a formal complaint to the New Mexico Secretary of State regarding Block’s apparent violations of the Voter Action Act in San Miguel county.

Attorney General Involvement: On September 27, the Attorney General stated that an investigation into Block Jr. lying about finances used in San Miguel County is on the “front burner.”

That’s got be worth at least another $150,000 when you factor in the loaded hourly rate of those involved in the investigation and ultimate prosecution of the case. Then, of course, you’ve got the taxpayer paid employees who were able to supplement their income with the taxpayer funded resources from the indicted commissioner Block’s campaign:


Just Who Ain’t on the Payroll?: On October 14, the first general election campaign finance reports for the district 3 PRC race indicated that Block Jr. payed Cordy Medina for “mailout assistance.” What’s the problem? Medina is the State Attorney General’s consitutent services coordiantor–the person who picks up the phone when citizens call to complain about, um, political candidates having suspicious payrolls.

This part-time double dipping wasn’t limited to the Attorney General’s office. PRC staff also found a way to get on the PRC campaign payroll:

Campaign finance reports filed with the Secretary of State’s Office show Block paid [Larry L. Lujan] Lujan at least $2,000 last year for campaign coordination. Lujan has previously said he campaigned for Block solely on weekends and on his own personal time.

So, that’s another couple of grand. But, let’s not forget the telephone bills:

Lujan and Block also exchanged more than 300 phone calls on Lujan’s state cell phone during a 10-month period after Block launched his campaign.

PRC officials investigated the calls after they were reported by the Journal and determined Lujan inappropriately used his phone, though the agency didn’t disclose whether Lujan was disciplined.

Anyone want to bet that those 300 telephone calls were not restricted to weekend and personal hour times? Yeah, I didn’t think so.

Which means, we’ve got:

  • more lost work hours paid for by the taxpayers
  • on a taxpayer paid phone
  • to a campaign funded by taxpayers
  • for a position which is charged to taxpayers
  • which is investigated by and prosecuted by taxpayer employed staff

So, where does this leave us? Well, if you factor in Mr. Lujan’s latest promotion, we’re over $500,000 in waste.

Congratulations Governor Bill Richardson!

Friday, August 28th, 2009


Congratulations Governor Richardson! Your success in avoiding being indicted is undoubtedly the most impressive accomplishment of your two terms as Governor of the Land of Enchantment. In case anyone questions just how impressive an accomplishment this is compared to everything you’ve done as Governor, I’m providing this link for your use:

Governor Bill Richardson’s Greatest Accomplishments

North Koreans Come to the Rescue

Thursday, August 20th, 2009

You’ve got to love the timing of the thing. Conspiracy theorists could have a field day. Former Democratic Secretary of State Rebecca Vigil-Giron is indicted on 50-counts for laundering millions of dollars, and Governor Bill Richardson holds “productive talks” with the North Koreans.

I can’t help, but feel the need to take a trip down memory lane back to April 30, 2007:

Oh, and it looks like the newly elected Democratic Party Chairman, Brian Colon, is already going to have his hands full trying to keep some folks from getting back into office:
Former Secretary of State Rebecca Vigil-Giron wants to be lieutenant governor.

You might be thinking that she’s looking to get on a ticket in 2010. Vigil-Giron, however, is thinking about next year.

She told me that during the Democrats’ convention in Las Cruces today.

Rebecca Vigil-Giron back in office. It’s like a dream come true for Republicans. Remember, this is the lady whose fiscal mismanagement of the Secretary of State’s office was so severe that it resulted in a Richardson job offer being revoked put on hold:

Richardson said he wasn’t aware the shortfall was that big.

“I was not aware of the size of the deficit,” he said. “I was aware there was some expenses that hadn’t been paid but when I learned that was $3 million, I think it’s important we get all the facts and we make sure a proper audit is done.”

The governor’s announcement [regarding Rebecca Vigil-Giron's appointment being put on hold] followed Sen. Shannon Robinson, an Albuquerque Democrat, yanking his sponsorship of an administration bill this week that would create the Media Arts and Entertainment Department, of which the film museum would be a part. Robinson was the only Senate sponsor.

House Republicans tried but failed to stop a similar bill in that chamber.

Even with his call for an audit, the governor defended Vigil-Giron.

He said she “has served the state, she’s been an elected official, she’s contributed to state government in New Mexico and I believe she deserves an opportunity to stay in state government.”

Of course, you’ve got to love the Governor’s logic in that last paragraph, “[Vigil-Giron] contributed to state government in New Mexico and I believe she deserves an opportunity to stay in state government.”

Hmm, I wonder… let’s try that a few different ways…

“Manny Aragon contributed to state government in New Mexico and I believe he deserves an opportunity to stay in state government.”

“Robert Vigil contributed to state government in New Mexico and I believe he deserves an opportunity to stay in state government.”

Michael Montoya contributed to state government in New Mexico and I believe he deserves an opportunity to stay in state government.”

That about sums up the problem with New Mexico politics. Now, I’m sure that the timing of the Governor’s meeting with the North Koreans was just a fortunate coincidence.

Governor’s Transparency Policy

Thursday, June 18th, 2009

Wow! Everyone’s on record of late claiming complete ignorance regarding fees paid to third-party marketers. Then, this comes to light.

The bottom line is this: In the wake of a corruption scandal at the state Treasurer’s Office in 2005, a policy was drafted that called for public disclosure of fees paid to so-called third-party marketers on government investment deals.

A document that became known as the “Governor’s Transparency Policy” — put together for Gov. Bill Richardson — recommended disclosure of all the fees.

That didn’t happen. The policy was never adopted, not even by the State Investment Council, which Richardson chairs and controls.

I believe that’s what they call a smoking gun.

Just Another Typical Day of Enchantment

Thursday, June 11th, 2009

Well, it looks like just another typical news day in the Land of Enchantment. Let’s see, we’ve got a report that one former State Senator has entered prison for his part robbing New Mexicans of $4.2 million:

Former state Senate President Pro Tem Manny Aragon has begun serving his 67-month prison term in Colorado.
Then, we’ve got an indictment that has been two years in the making of the former executive director of Region III Housing Authority with ties to current House Speaker Ben Lujan:
In 2003 and 2004, State Investment Council bought $5 million in bonds issued by the authority to finance its mission to buy and renovate homes that are sold to low-income buyers.
Money from home sales was used by the housing authority to pay operational expenses including $875,000 that went to Gallegos as salary, retirement benefits and a loan.
The bonds defaulted, and the State Investment Council estimated losses to taxpayers at around $4 million.
Public investigations found, among other things:
  • In sales of 40 properties, the money received from buyers wasn’t used to pay off the bonds.
  • The authority withdrew bond money to purchase five properties it already owned.
  • The authority withdrew $880,000 to purchase 16 properties but paid only $280,000 for them.
A series of reports by the Journal’s Thomas J. Cole also found that the housing authority allowed a state judge and an aide to House Speaker Ben Lujan, D-Santa Fe, to live rent free in authority homes.
And, to round out the headlines, it looks like the results of the investigation into Governor Richardson and his inner circle has arrived on the desk of U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder:
The New Mexico Finance Authority has been part of the federal investigation after awarding a hefty contract — with questionable procedures that included adding points and changing the initial rankings — to California-based CDR Financial Inc.
CDR, which also was awarded a sole-source, no-bid escrow contract, contributed about $100,000 to Richardson’s political committees around the time of the contract awards.
The contract award in 2004 was for CDR to advise the Finance Authority on the state $1.6 billion GRIP transportation bond program.
Among the former Finance Authority officials interviewed by the FBI is former NMFA Executive Director David Harris.
After CDR won the New Mexico business in 2004, CDR officials paid for dinner and Lakers basketball tickets in Los Angeles for Harris and former Richardson chief of staff Dave Contarino.
Richardson has said no one from his administration acted improperly.
Of course, the Governor would say no one has acted improperly. This is New Mexico. As it has been noted, it’s just “the way we do business.” Although, I, for one, am hoping the voters have just about had enough.

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